Applauding in acclamation, the United Nations General Assembly today appointed Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon of the Republic of Korea as the world body’s next Secretary-General, to succeed Kofi Annan when he steps down on 31 December.
Smiling, waving and nodding to the members of the 192-nation body, the man who will become the world’s top diplomat for five years on 1 January, was escorted by the UN Chief of Protocol through the Assembly central aisle to the podium.
Addressing the assembled delegates, the Secretary-General-designate, who will be the UN’s eighth chief and the second from Asia, pledged to carry out reforms, building on Mr. Annan’s legacy.
“My tenure will be marked by ceaseless efforts to build bridges and close divides. Leadership of harmony not division, by division not instruction, has served me well so far. I intend to stay the course as Secretary-General,” he said.
Mr. Ban referred to his own reputation of modest demeanour. “Asia is also a region where modesty is a virtue. But the modesty is about demeanour, not about vision and goals. It does not mean the lack of commitment or leadership. Rather it is quiet determination in action to get things done without so much fanfare,” he declared.
“This may be the key to Asia’s success, and to the UN’s future. Indeed, our Organization is modest in its means, but not in its values. We should be more modest in our words, but not in our performance.”
Mr. Ban noted that the road towards peace, prosperity and dignity for all has many pitfalls. “As Secretary-General, I will make the most of the authority invested in my office by the Charter and the mandate you give me. I will work diligently to materialize our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of humanity and for the peaceful resolution of threats to international security and regional stability,” he said.
Underlining the efforts to reform the UN, he declared: “Let us remember that reform is not to please others, but because we value what this Organization stands for. We need reform because we believe in the future. To revitalize our common endeavour is to renew our faith not only in the UN’s programmes and purposes but also in each other. We should demand more of ourselves as well as of our organization.”
Mr. Ban, who is no stranger to the world body, promised an open administration and pledged to work closely with all Member States and with the media. Earlier in his diplomatic career he served in his country’s mission to the UN and in 2001 was Chef de Cabinet to then General Assembly President Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea.
Welcoming Mr. Ban, President Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa of Bahrain said his appointment comes at a time when the UN is deeply engaged in a wide-ranging reform process.
“We are grateful to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has played a major role in shaping a clear and comprehensive vision to address the many global challenges confronting us,” she declared. “I am confident that the Organization will build upon its past achievements and move ahead to become an even more effective body under the leadership of Secretary-General designate Ban Ki-Moon.”
Mr. Annan hailed Mr. Ban as a “future Secretary-General who is exceptionally attuned to the sensitivities of countries and constituencies in every continent – a man with a truly global mind at the helm of the world’s only universal organization.
“More than 50 years ago, the first Secretary-General of the United Nations, Trygvie Lie, used the following words in greeting his successor, Dag Hammarskjöld, and I quote: ‘You are about to take over the most impossible job on Earth,’ end quote. While that may be true, I would say: this is also the best possible job on Earth,” he added.
The chairpersons of the UN’s five regional groups and a representative of the United States as host country each took the podium, praising the Secretary-General-designate for his diplomatic skills and personal qualities, and said the world body would be in able hands as it faces the challenges to come. They paid tribute to Mr. Annan for his work in steering the UN through 10 difficult years.
After the speeches, Mr. Ban stood with his wife in front of the blue and white UN flag depicting a globe of the world in its centre to receive the congratulations of delegates and UN staff.
The last Asian Secretary-General was U Thant of Myanmar (then called Burma), who left office in 1971.